Bernie Horn and Liz Whitelam, representing the Parking Advisory and Recommendation Committee (PARC), updated the Select Board on findings and recommendations that it has developed to help improve parking issues in the downtown area. Horn shared that the group’s goal is to maximize efficiency and access to parking for the maximum number of visitors to Reading while minimizing cost to visitors to the town.
There are 875 public parking spaces in the downtown area; 191 are considered “heavily used” and are located in the two town-owned parking lots. Horn reported that most usage data is anecdotal and provided through the use of surveys issued by PARC. Survey takers reported that 25% of downtown parkers stay less than fifteen minutes per visit, the large majority stay for less than two hours. Only a small percentage stay for more than four hours.
Whitelam outlined five general recommendations for the next steps. The first is consistent enforcement of the current regulations. The second is educating the public regarding the location of parking spaces in relation to businesses downtown. “Distances are not as far as you think they are,” Whitelam stated. The third recommendation is creating additional parking for employees of downtown businesses. “If we get employees out of [downtown] lots, we solve 85% of the parking problems,” Whitelam suggested. She also shared that the PARC is leaning towards recommending paid kiosks in the downtown parking lots for persons parking for greater than one hour. The final recommendation is to deal with options for overnight visitors to the downtown.
The Select Board voted 5-0 to extend the PARC’s work until April 1.
Green Communities Update
The Select Board also voted 5-0 to approve the energy reduction plan presented by Community Development Director Julie Mercier. Adopting the plan is one of the steps needed for the town to receive the “Green Communities” designation. Mercier referred to the plan as a commitment to reduce energy use by 20% over the next five years and a roadmap outlining the plan of how to get there. The plan is non-binding and adaptable as situations change.
Mercier reported that 85% of the town’s energy use is in its seventeen buildings. Measures such as conversion to LED lights, weatherization, and improved ventilation and heating systems form the project’s first three years. Four and a half million dollars have already been committed to this effort by Town Meeting. In years four and five, larger projects such as heating system conversion and boiler replacements will occur. Both the Select Board and the School Committee will receive annual updates on the plan’s progress. The School Committee will discuss and vote on the plan at its December 16 meeting.
The Select Board also voted 5-0 to renew liquor licenses in town and voted 5-0 to add resident Walt Tuvell’s eleventh and twelfth open meeting law complaints to the mediation of complaints five through ten scheduled for January 8.
The Select Board adjourned at 11:30 pm.